Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Touristing Around Turkey - Part 1

The Galata Tower on New Years Eve


The Day we left Kalymnos was a sad day as we had had so much fun on this little Greek island, but it was time to move on. We took the ferry form Kalymnos to Kos and then another on to Bodrum which was all fairly straight forward.
Bodrum Port and Castle
Bodrum is a bit of a weird town. It is totally set up for summer partying and therefore in winter was almost deserted. In fact a local gardener came to chat to us while we enjoyed the view, and asked what on earth we were doing there in winter! We spent only one night here and had an afternoon and morning exploring which was nice but enough.
We did have a very weird experience with one of the hotel staff members who blatantly had a very big go at his employers to us while we tried to have breakfast – warning us how “sneaky and bad” Turkish people were and that he was basically in slavery.

From Bodrum we took a 3hr bus trip to Selcuk to see the ruins at Ephesus. The buses in Turkey are generally amazing, with free wifi and attendants serving drinks and snacks! Very plush.


The Library at Ephesus before the
crowds arrived
In Selcuk we stayed in a lovely hostel called Homeros which was warm and welcoming and served lovely food by friendly staff.

The next morning we went to see the ruins at Ephesus. These are some of the best-preserved roman ruins in the world and are amazing to see. Consequently they were very busy, even though it was off-season. I could not imagine it in the height of peak season.
In Selcuk we also visited St John’s Basilica where St John is supposedly buried and the local mosque, which was beautiful.
Cath taking photos at St John's Basilic


The Cotton Castle or Travertine Pools
From Selcuk we took a 4 hour bus ride to Pumukkale to visit the ancient city of Hierapolis with its white travertine pools. The Romans used the pools and natural hot springs as baths and built a city around them. This was truly spectacular. Their beauty is very hard to put it to words so I have included some pictures. These were one of the best “tourist attractions” we visited in Turkey
Enjoying the supposed healing
properties of the Travertine Pools

After Pumukkale we had a not so fun epic bus trip to Olympos, the travel agent we booked our bus through lied about the length of the trip and the number of buses we need to get to actually get to Olympos plus there were hidden charges for the other busses. Fortunately this was the only real bad experience we had in Turkey and by the scheme of things wasn’t actually that bad.


Roman ruins in the jungle by the beach 
Finally we arrived in Olympos to stay at a friendly but a bit run down and very quiet tree house hostel.
We had hoped to do some climbing and visit the eternal flame of Olympos, which the area is famous for. Unfortunately It rained heavily all day, accompanied by some big thunderstorms.
We did get to explore some more roman ruins between storms in the jungle near the beach, which was fun. We were the only ones there and it felt like we had just discovered some lost ruins in the jungle.

The Eternal Flames at Olympos,
Natural gas pours out of the ground and spontaneously ignites

But then came the hike up to the eternal flame, which they say is best at night. It chucked it down on us and lightning flashed all around us while the thunder roared! It all very exciting, but mostly very wet. We did manage to see the flames for about 2 minutes before we ran back down the hill to the safety of the waiting car and dryness.

As it was predicted to rain again the next day in Olympos we decide to head to Geyikbayiri where we planed to climb for the next 3 weeks.

See Turkey Part 2 for the climbing update, coming soon

While we were in Geyikbayiri we went to Antalya for a Hammam (Turkish Bath) with Tim, Per and Isabella. This was very entertaining experience and good way to relax the muscle after all the climbing we had been doing. This was followed by a good feed in a very small restaurant that was incredibly tasty and cheep.
Before we headed to Istanbul we had lovely night in Antalya at warm hotel and played backgammon at a trendy little bar.


The New Mosque in Istanbul

We decided to take a one hour flight to Istanbul, instead of the over night bus, which turned out to be a good decision as it cost about the same due to the fact they could not be bothered to charge us for our excess luggage!!
Our first hostel in Istanbul, just near Taksim square is best described as an experience in sleep deprivation!
The staff were very friendly, but the place had a bit of a weird vibe over all. Our room was VERY SMALL and the only window in it was on to service shaft area! The communal shower felt like it had been built in a cupboard.
Our first night we discovered why this hostel was so cheap further to the reasons above as we went to bed the booming noise of the night club next door came pounding through the walls which must have had no sound proofing at all. We are up till 4 am and my as well have been on the dance floor the noise was so loud.

Riot police and water Canon
getting ready
Earlier that night we experienced riots in and around where are hostel was located. While we walked back to our hostel from a bit of exploring along Allstiklal Cadessi we noticed lots of riot police. Thinking this is a bit weird we kept heading on eventually popping into a pub for a drink. Shortly afterwards, as we sat out the front watching the world go buy, enjoying a drink, and starting to wonder about the yells and shouts getting closer and closer, we were quickly asked to come inside and cover our nose and mouths.
There is always a $ to be made!
Selling gas masks at the riot
This was soon followed by rioters running past and the faint hint of tear gas in the air.
We spent the next little while in the pub till we were given the all clear and headed out to quickly grab some dinner and head back to the hostel, a couple of minutes away.
After we got back to the hostel we spent the next hour or so watching rioters running up and down the street having a wonderful time taunting the police and then running off. It was all very entertaining for them and us.


The new dawn service venue near ANZAC Cove

The next day after very little sleep we headed to Gallipoli very early.
This was a very unexpected and moving experience and hard to put into words.
Our excellent tour guide Bülent ‘Bill’ Yilmaz Korkmaz gave us so much more of the background and history than we could have picked up ourselves and really brought to life what it would have been like during the battles here.
One of the main things that struck me was just how close the opposing trenches were. Often much less than 10m apart!
I know people often say it is a moving experience to visit these places, but it truly was. I would recommend it to anyone.

Lone Pine Memorial for the ANZAC troops

Back to Istanbul

The Spice Bazzar
After another sleepless night we moved to the Cheers hostel (where they do all know your name!) for a little bit of luxury, at least cheapish luxury. This hostel was wonderful.
Inside the Hagia Sophia

We spent the next few days exploring a lot of the amazing mosques, Topkapı Palace, Basilica Cistern, the Grand and Spice Bazaar, which was lovely, but tiring.

Preyer inside the Blue Mosque

On new years eve we headed down to the waterfront to watch the fire works, it was a freezing night, but we did manage to get an amazing spot to watch the fireworks across the river, right up to a couple of minute before midnight when suddenly a tour bout came speeding down the river, horns blazing and pulled up right in front of us and blocked most of our view! Oh well it was still a fun night!

Next stop sunny England and visiting loads of old friends, Can’t wait!

If you would like to see more photos from Turkey they are here

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